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The Buzz @ Sourcebooks

We work with our authors to develop great books that find and inspire a wide audience.

Here is a glimpse into our activities.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

“Well, what if we put a towel on the legs so they look less, um, naked?”

You find yourself in some odd discussions in publishing, but the ones about the level of nudity on cover models are always strange – especially when the book in question isn’t a novel, much less a romance novel – it’s a college reference book, one that actually includes the word “naked” in the title. A day in the life of publishing is filled with such discussions and decisions, about details both big and small.

Just over six years ago, Sourcebooks released a book by Harlan Cohen called The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College. We shipped around 7200 copies in its first month, and in truth it was an up-hill climb. At the time, the idea of funny, student-centric, nearly 500-page advice book for college-students-to-be was something of a stretch – there simply were no successful comparable books, and as such our retailers started out cautiously.

Moreover, some wouldn’t carry the book solely because it addressed college students and included the word “naked” in the title. Imagine for yourself the numerous rejected versions of the book cover featuring a towel draped on the legs of the cover model.


It turns out the towel didn’t solve the issue for that customer – but what did break it open was heavy reader demand and sell-through previously unheard of for the category. Harlan’s irreverent brand of real-world information not only made the perfect back-to-school gift, it was an even better graduation gift. And from there - over the course of the past six years - we’ve been able to partner with Harlan to build…

  • The new bestselling guide for parents of the college-bound, The Happiest Kid on Campus
  • The foundations of a ground-breaking “First Year Experience” curriculum for both high schools and colleges
  • And, now in its 4th edition, The Naked Roommate is not only the #1 selling going-to-college resource by a long stretch, as of last week (and after more than a quarter-million copies and six years of striving), it’s a New York Times bestseller. Even better, after those great six years with Harlan, it still feels like we’ve only just begun to bring him to the widest audience and make a difference in the lives of students the world over.


Would it have made a difference if we’d just put a towel on those bare legs? Would we have gotten to the same place, would it have boosted the trajectory faster, or might it have stunted the sales in other retailers? In retrospect, it’s hard to say, but it’s one more example of the seemingly minor – but actually major - decisions publishers and authors make together every day.

Friday, March 25, 2011

This Saturday, April 23rd, people around the world will be celebrating William Shakespeare's 447th birthday. One of the ways to participate? Talk like Shakespeare!

To hear how the pros do it, here is an excerpt from the Sourcebooks Shakespeare Macbeth, Sir Derek Jacobi (our esteemed narrator) introducing the Porter scene.


Act 2, Scene 3, lines 1-36

(On not-unrelated notes, Sir Derek Jacobi is garnering acclaim for his portrayal of King Lear, currently at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the new Dr. Who begins this weekend.  The voice of the Porter in our excerpt? David Tennant!)

Friday, March 25, 2011

We’re pleased to announce that Kristi Yamaguchi’s adorable new children’s book, Dream Big, Little Pig, will debut at #2 on the New York Times picture book bestsellers list, published April 3, 2011. Charmingly illustrated by Tim Bowers, Dream Big, Little Pig follows Poppy the pig’s adventures as she strives to make her dreams come true.

Here at Sourcebooks, we make a point of celebrating when one of our authors makes the New York Times bestsellers list. It’s a huge accolade and our team works hard to help them get there. We often have a little champagne toast, but we were inspired by Poppy’s dreams and served up a different treat this time in her honor.


And here's a special pig-cupcake toast from all of us at Sourcebooks to our New York Times bestsellers Kristi Yamaguchi and Tim Bowers – congratulations!


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Some of you may not be aware of the effort it takes to design a book cover. One cover, for the upcoming young adult novel The Liar Society, took us a while. It was a long process that started months ago, with many versions of the cover that never even saw the light of day. And while we may get excited about finally finding the cover we think is perfect, our authors don't always agree. Then again, sometimes it takes them a minute to realize they do agree. And sometimes they write really nice blog posts about it, embracing the journey and thanking those who helped them along the way.

Check out Lisa and Laura Roecker's blog post about their take on our cover process.

Thanks to everyone who worked on this book, and thanks to everyone for giving feedback on cover designs. It really does make a difference!


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